Ramy Youssef is very blunt when he explains why his win at the Golden Globes back in January for his self-titled series came as such a shock to him. “Well it was wild because Gold Derby said I wasn’t going to win it,” he jokes in our recent webchat (watch the video above). In all seriousness, he found himself feeling truly grateful for the recognition and how that affected the viewership: “It’s exciting, especially in such a crowded landscape to put a little bit of a checkmark on something of like, I know there are 600 shows but you should watch this one. It was like our show came out again. That’s how much it meant.” Youssef also made good on his promise to give his mother the trophy. “My mom said it could almost replace the fact that there was no college diploma.”
“Ramy,” which premiered its second season on Hulu in May, centers on the titular character, who’s a Muslim-American in his late 20s trying to figure out his place in the world and how to reconcile his faith with the current landscape of his home country. In addition to acting in the show, Youssef also serves as a writer, director and showrunner. The show has been embraced by critics and this past January, Youssef picked up the Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy Actor.
While the show doesn’t seek to be political, Youssef understands that the show’s existence is political in itself. “The fact that the Arabic language has been weaponized. A phrase like ‘Allahu akbar’ or even ‘Allah’ feels like a negative due to how it’s been extracted and politicized and expanded into this idea of danger,” he explains. But it all comes back to the humanity of the characters and how these are “people trying to be the better version of themselves.” That being said, the shadow of our current politics is never far from the show’s themes. “We’re not predicated on that tension but it certainly mixes into the recipe of what these characters have to deal with whether they want to or not.”
The second season brings Youssef’s character all over the emotional map and concludes with him in a very uncertain place. However, Youssef chooses to see this as a gift for the character: “We want to put him at a crossroads where he really has to face what does he actually believe and what’s coming from his ego. I think that that’s really in the nature of anyone who seems to be something and then we really see where they’re actually at,” he says. But he does acknowledge that watching him get to that crossroads can be uncomfortable. “Something does happen that were all cringing at, I’m even cringing watching it after I’ve performed it. We watch him deal with this thing around a marriage. It’s secretly a gift to everyone involved.”
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